Photo: Netflix / Courtesy
HOUSTON – When Vanessa Guillen’s mother crossed the border into Killeen, Texas without even knowing that her daughter was deadshe immediately sensed something macabre.
“This town smells like death,” said Gloria Guillen, Vanessa’s mother, when she and her relatives arrived at the Fort Hood Base looking for her daughter.who had been missing for days.
The memory after two years is still fresh, you can’t shake it.
The fear she felt, the impotence that overwhelmed her and the despair that did not let her sleep are cruel memories that continue with her and it is “that the pain never goes away”.
In the voice of the mother of the Houston specialist soldier, who was brutally murdered on the premises of the Fort Hood Military Base in April 2022 by one of her colleagues, the anger and pain can still be heard.
Her testimony in the documentary “I Am Vanessa Guillen”, which premieres on Netflix on November 17, is strong and makes it clear that despite everything that Vanessa’s family has gone through, they will not stop fighting for her legacy.
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“My mother is a very religious person and when she said that the town smelled of death, I think she was referring to the deaths that had already occurred on that base,” said Lupe Guillen, Vanessa’s younger sister in an interview with La Opinion.
Directed by Christy Wegener, the documentary follows Vanessa’s sisters, Mayra and Lupe, as they fight after Vanessa’s death to change the way the Army justice system handles sexual assault and harassment cases between soldiers.
History captured a great triumph that was achieved in the name of family, love and justice.
The documentary is the recount of a Hispanic family that gets into a fight with Samson. They faced nothing more and nothing less than the United States Army and won.
During the desperate search for Vanessa, a movement emerged across the country. The hashtag #IamVanessaGuillen put the Army on the ropes after soldiers of different genders began posting their stories of harassment and sexual assault they suffered while on duty on social media.
Most stories ended with injustice. The alleged perpetrators were rarely disciplined and the victims were left open to retaliation, according to accounts shared by people who allegedly suffered the abuse.
“We put aside our pain for my sister and other victims,” said Mayra.
The documentary captured the frustrating interaction with some politicians in Washington DC who refused to take action and how slow government processes can sometimes be.
“I’m not going to deny that there was a moment that crossed my mind to back out and lock myself up and I locked myself up, but I couldn’t stop fighting for my sister,” added Lupe.
There are very intimate moments in the documentary and in one of them it becomes clear that Vanessa’s family will never be the same.
In the living room of the house there is a huge altar with photos of Vanessa, saints, candles, lights, rosaries and images of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
“That altar has been growing over time, they are things that people have given us to remember Vanessa, they are memories that we keep,” said Mayra.
Fighting with Mayra and Lupe is the lawyer Natalie Khawan, who has been practically since day one in the battle and her dedication to the case and the importance of achieving justice for Vanessa are reflected in the documentary.
The documentary, however, is not an end point and this is what Mayra wants to make very clear, and that is that despite the fact that President Joe Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes provisions to reform the way in which the judicial system military handles complaints of sexual harassment, and that they are part of the well-known project “I am Vanessa Guillén” in tribute to the soldier, there is still much to be done.
“I have made a decision to create a foundation in Vanessa’s honor so that cases of sexual harassment and assault in the Army move faster and that victims and their families do not have to wait years to get justice,” said Mayra.
The suspect in Vanessa’s death, Aaron Robinson, shot himself and died the day police tried to arrest him after Vanessa’s remains were found. Robinson’s girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, who has been accused of helping Robinson dismember and burn Vanessa’s body before burying it, is scheduled for a court hearing next January.